Greek Yogurt Nutrition and Health Benefits

Greek yogurt bowls with mango, banana, chia seeds, and honey

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You've probably heard the debate: Greek yogurt or regular yogurt? Both are versatile and nutritious, but there are many reasons individuals choose to go Greek.

The biggest difference between Greek and regular yogurt is how they're strained—the process for straining Greek yogurt removes the whey component.

Greek yogurt is thicker, denser, and less sweet than regular yogurt. It also tastes slightly tangy.

Taste and texture aside, Greek yogurt typically has twice as much protein as its traditional counterpart, and it's also a great source of calcium and probiotics. Plus, it contains less sodium and fewer carbs than regular yogurt.

Many people who are working on managing their weight find that Greek yogurt fits nicely into a balanced diet.

Greek Yogurt Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information is provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for one container (156 g or 5.5 oz) of plain, nonfat Greek yogurt.

Greek Yogurt Nutrition Facts

  • Calories: 92
  • Fat: 0.265 g
  • Sodium: 56.2 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 5.68 g
  • Sugars: 5.1 g
  • Fiber: N/A
  • Choline: 23.6 mg
  • Protein: 16.1 g
  • Calcium: 111 mg

Carbs

One container of nonfat, plain Greek yogurt (156 grams) typically contains 5 grams of carbohydrates. It has 5.1 grams of sugar.

Fats

There's less than 1 gram of fat in plain, nonfat Greek yogurt.

Protein

Greek yogurt contains 16 grams of protein, making it an excellent way to boost your daily protein intake.

Vitamins and Minerals

Greek yogurt is full of vitamins and minerals. One container includes 10.7 milligrams of magnesium, 136 milligrams of phosphorous, 141 milligrams of potassium, and 15 milligrams of choline. It also has 111 milligrams of calcium.

Magnesium helps with functions such as energy production and protein synthesis, while potassium plays a vital role in nervous system function and muscle contraction. Phosphorous helps with bone growth and normal cell membrane function. Choline, a B vitamin, assists with biological processes such as fat and cholesterol transport, as well as energy metabolism.

Calories

According to the USDA, one container of plain, nonfat Greek yogurt contains 92 calories.

Health Benefits

The nutritional profile of Greek yogurt contributes to its many health benefits.

May Improve Bone Health

Greek yogurt is full of calcium and protein, which could benefit your bones.

Calcium, for example, can reduce the risk of osteoporosis and helps build and maintain strong bones.

A study published in 2020 in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism found that healthy males ages 18 to 25 who consumed fat-free, plain Greek yogurt for 12 weeks saw "a significantly greater increase in bone formation," compared to those who had a placebo with no protein or calcium.

May Improve Gut Health

Many brands of Greek yogurt contain probiotics, which are good bacteria that can help your gut achieve a healthy bacterial balance.

You'll want to check your yogurt container to make sure it has what you're looking for. Only yogurts that say "Live & Active Cultures" on their seal contain probiotics. Also, double-check the type and amount before you buy; these details can vary by brand.

May Build Muscle Mass

Greek yogurt is rich in protein, and a high-protein diet can increase muscle mass in those who are doing resistance training.

A study published in Frontiers in Nutrition in 2019 found that consuming Greek yogurt during a training program led to improved strength, muscle thickness, and body composition, compared to a carbohydrate-based placebo.

The results suggest that consuming Greek yogurt "can be a plausible, post-exercise, nutrient-rich alternative for positive strength, muscle, and body composition adaptations," according to the study authors.

May Contribute to Weight Loss

Greek yogurt is a great source of protein, which helps people feel full—and may prevent overeating. Research has found that people may eat less during the day after having Greek yogurt or another high-protein meal.

But a word of warning: Check the added sugar on your Greek yogurt. Some brands use a lot to improve taste, which can cause calories to add up quickly. Choose plain, unsweetened Greek yogurt when possible, but note that yogurt naturally contains sugar, so there will be some natural sugars. Avoid Greek yogurt with zero sugar, as these usually contain artificial sweeteners.

May Promote Better Heart Health

Research suggests that fermented dairy, like yogurt, lowers the risk of plaque buildup and artery stiffness. Both are linked to high blood pressure.

Another study, published in the American Journal of Hypertension, found that eating two or more servings of yogurt per week was linked with a 21% lower risk of stroke in men and 17% in women. That was compared with those who had less than one serving of yogurt per month.

According to research published in the Journal of Dairy Science, people with Type 2 diabetes who had 300 grams of yogurt with probiotics each day had a 4.5% and 7.5% decrease in total and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, compared to a control group. Yogurt "may contribute to the improvement of cardiovascular disease risk factors," the study authors wrote.

May Reduce the Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

In one study, published in BMC Medicine, a "higher intake of yogurt" was associated with a reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes. That connection did not hold true for other types of dairy.

Allergies

If you think you're allergic to yogurt, you might be on to something. Yogurt is made out of cultured milk, and milk is one of the most common food allergies.

Signs of a milk allergy include:

  • Hives
  • Wheezing
  • Tingling sensation around the lips or mouth
  • Swelling of the lips, tongue, or throat
  • Vomiting
  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath

Some people who suspect they have a milk allergy actually have an intolerance.

However, because it contains less lactose than regular yogurt, Greek yogurt is usually tolerated better by those with lactose intolerance. Signs of lactose intolerance include digestive problems after consuming milk products—think bloating, gas, or diarrhea. A health care professional can help make the correct diagnosis.

Varieties

There are lots of Greek yogurt brands that put their own spin on the product. For example, plain varieties are unflavored and quite versatile. In addition to having it as a meal or snack, many people use Greek yogurt as a base for dressings and dips, or as a substitute for sour cream or mayonnaise. Some people bake with it to make tasty treats more nutritious.

There are also flavored varieties. These tend to be sweeter than the plain versions. For example, you can get vanilla Greek yogurt, raspberry Greek yogurt, blueberry acai Greek yogurt, and many more flavors.

Some varieties of Greek yogurt are plant-based; instead of using cow's milk, they're made from alternatives like coconut milk or almond milk. One popular brand, Siggi's Plant-Based Greek Yogurt, is made with coconut milk, pea protein, and tree nuts.

Some Greek yogurt varieties are fortified with probiotics or with vitamin D, and you can also choose among low-fat, full-fat, or nonfat products.

Storage and Food Safety

You should always store Greek yogurt in the refrigerator, keeping it below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The product's shelf life is typically seven to 14 days. Storing it for longer than that could lead to the development of mold, yeast, or bacteria.

Don't let yogurt sit on your counter for longer than two hours (or one hour, if it's 90 degrees or above).

How to Prepare

Eat Greek yogurt as is, directly out of its container, or pair it with fresh fruit at breakfast. Some other ideas include:

  • Sub it in for mayo in chicken or tuna salad.
  • Blend it into hummus.
  • Add it to cake, bread, or muffins that you're baking; it can help make your baked good extra moist.
  • Spice it up with fruits, nuts, or herbs.
  • Use it as the base in smoothies.
  • Whip up Tzatziki sauce with it.
  • As a topping for tacos or chili, in place of sour cream.

Recipes

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Article Sources
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